SALISBURY – When Community Pharmacy owner Jeff Farace was first approached about selling CBD oil in his store, he was skeptical.
“My first reaction was ‘No, I can’t bring this into my pharmacy,’” he said.
Like many individuals, Farace said he was initially unsure of CBD – short for cannabidiol – and its reported therapeutic properties.
CBD is one of more than 80 active cannabinoids found in the hemp plant, and unlike THC, a psychoactive cannabinoid, it won’t get you high.
And while research is always changing, studies suggest that using CBD oils, salves and capsules can help with anxiety, insomnia, depression, migraine headaches, pain, arthritis and fibromyalgia, among other conditions.
Farace said a buyer first introduced him to the idea of selling CBD oil last year, and, after months of research, he agreed to put it on his shelves.
“I started researching it and reading about it and finally, when I felt comfortable with it, I thought ‘I have to bring this in,’” he said.
In January, Farace said his pharmacy began selling limited quantities of CBD oil from vetted companies.
“At first, we didn’t really go out and talk about it,” he said. “If people asked us about it, we would inform them. But then it started to snowball.”
Farace said the demand for CBD oil grew as perceptions began to change.
“The common misconception is that hemp and marijuana are the exact same, but they aren’t,” he said. “Hemp can only have up to 0.3 percent THC, whereas marijuana has up to 20 to 30 percent THC.”
With the exception of a new epilepsy drug approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration earlier this year, Pharmacists said customers can purchase CBD oils over the counter.
Matt Balish, a staff pharmacist at Apple Discount Drugs in Salisbury, said his pharmacy began selling CBD oil nearly eight months ago. At times, he said it is hard to keep the product on the shelves.
But while he noted its benefits, Balish said consumers should be aware of its side effects and interactions with other medications.
“We do not recommend it for pregnant women or those who are breastfeeding …,” he said. “We also don’t recommend it to those who are on blood thinners because they could potentially have a bleeding issue.”
Despite its rarer side effects, Balish said CBD products are generally safe, and nearly 70 percent of consumers reported getting some benefit from using them.
“The response has been pretty amazing,” he said, adding that many customers with diabetic foot pain and lower back pain have seen results. “People who have exhausted other options will often try it.”
Farace noted that many of his customers with PTSD, Crohn’s disease and migraines and those taking opioids have noted improvements.
“We are getting people taking eight to 10 oxycodones down to one or two oxycodones,” he said. “Several people have gone off it completely.”
Balish said it was no surprise that local pharmacies are now offering CBD oil. He noted that the product was nonaddictive and cited studies that suggested using CBD products could reduce the number of opioids people take by 20 to 50 percent.
“It is a safe, natural product,” he said.
However, pharmacists cautioned individuals who purchase CBD products online.
“The Internet is like the Wild West of CBD …,” Farace said. “The biggest thing is making sure people get a quality product. I really tell people to be careful when they order online because a lot of times you don’t know what you are getting. That’s why we vet these companies.”
“If you search CBD oil online, you will get a lot of dubious websites,” he said. “Be careful with products that are making health claims.”
Farace and Balish recommended those interested in using CBD oil should talk with their doctor or pharmacist first and learn how to find the right dosage.
“It’s not a one-size-fits-all product,” Balish said.